Have you ever had a candle that was so beautiful that you couldn’t bear to burn it?
Luxury candles can be a wonderful and sophisticated addition to your home’s décor. The look and feel of a beautifully designed candle container, still filled to the brim with pristine and untouched wax, brings a kind of ambient, soft spoken pleasure to a room just by being there.
So if you enjoy collecting candles for décor, you might be wondering: how long do candles last? If you don’t light them, will candles ever “expire” or go bad?
In this article, we’ll explain how long candles last, what determines their lifetime, and things you can do to make yours last longer.
How Long Do Candles Last?
After a candle is lit, the amount of time it can burn is called the “burn time” — which depends on the size of the candle, the type of wax, and the number of wicks. At the Harlem Candle Company, the average burn time of our 12 oz. luxury candles is approximately 80 hours.
But what if the candle hasn’t been lit? The lifetime of a candle mainly depends on the type of wax used, as well as how it’s stored.
The short answer is that certain types of candles, like paraffin candles, can last almost indefinitely when stored properly. Other types, like soy candles, are best used within a year or two.
As for the long answer, it depends on your definition of “lasting.”
- If you have a scented candle, you might be wondering if the scent will weaken or change over time.
- If you have a colored candle, you might be wondering if the color will ever fade.
- Or you might just be wondering if there will come a day when the candle reaches a point where it’s expired and won’t light properly.
The answer to these questions is “yes.” Here's why.
Will Your Candle’s Scent Weaken?
Usually, the first type of degradation to occur in a candle is scent degradation.
Scent degradation is when an unlit candle gradually loses its original fragrance. This happens because molecules of fragrance oil are slowly but constantly evaporating from the wax into the air, even when the candle isn’t burning.
You can notice this process by putting an unlit candle close to your nose and taking a good whiff. Yes, that’s right — scent degradation is actually the same underlying process that produces a candle’s cold throw.
The good news is that scent degradation happens very gradually and is almost unnoticeable for the first 6 months to a year, depending on the type of wax and the quality of fragrance oils used.
The bad news is that it’s always happening, which means the longer you store your unlit candle, the less scent it will produce when you eventually burn it.
If you want to enjoy the strongest, most full-bodied fragrance that a candle has to offer, it’s best to burn it as soon as possible.
Will Your Candle’s Color Fade?
The next type of degradation is color degradation.
While we love the way pure white candle wax looks in an elegant glass container, other candle companies add dyes to their wax to create a different kind of feel and energy.
If you own a candle with colorful wax — whether it’s a vibrant red, a peaceful blue, or an opulent gold — be aware that its color may fade with time.
The main reason for this is exposure to UV light over a long period of time, causing the dyes that were mixed into the wax to oxidize and degrade. That’s why you should try to avoid keeping unlit candles in a place with direct sunlight. Even indoor lights can emit UV rays, although not nearly as much as sunlight.
How long the color lasts in your candle wax is hard to predict, though. If stored properly in a dark place, colors will last a long time. But if you’re displaying your candle as a decorative piece to add color to your space, it may start to fade faster depending on the amount and type of light it’s exposed to.
Other factors that also affect color degradation include the type of dye used in the wax. Some candle makers also mix UV protectant additives into the wax, which slows down the discoloration process.
Will Your Candle Ever Expire?
At the end of the day, your main concern when it comes to how long a candle lasts is whether or not you’ll still be able to light it.
Some people might find that, after keeping a beautiful luxury candle on their shelf for a few years, the wick is difficult to light or fizzles out quickly. Others might have a candle that’s been stored in a box in their attic for decades that still burns wonderfully.
Candles don’t have a hard expiration date like foods do, but they certainly degrade over time. Eventually, they might become difficult to light or not burn properly.
There are two main factors that determine the lifetime of a candle: what kind of wax is used and how the candle is stored.
Organic, vegetable-based waxes like soy and coconut are more prone to breaking down over time. Once they start to degrade, the wick may become clogged and the candle will be difficult to light.
On the other hand, paraffin and beeswax candles are more stable and can last almost indefinitely if stored correctly.
How to Make Candles Last Longer
- When on display, keep candles away from direct sunlight and other harsh lights.
- Use a candle topper or a glass cloche to help preserve the fragrance longer.
- Store them somewhere dark and cool.
- Avoid areas with high humidity or moisture (e.g. bathrooms).
- Avoid areas with sudden changes in temperature (e.g. radiators, vents).
While we can’t give you an exact number of years that your candle will last, a good rule of thumb to follow is to burn your candles within 1 year of unpacking them.
After that, how long your candle lasts will depend on how it was made, how you stored it, and perhaps a little bit of good luck.